Author Archive

Dementia

By Edward Butscher

Melodic are its three demonic syllables

pried from a deep Roman grave to root

in English hospitals and American labs

or dance like a pranked school skeleton,

serving as a noun escape, an anesthetic

for the last peeled-off sliver of self.

 

Crowned “Nana” by the family and tied

to a window chair by a foreign old age,

she cursed the grown daughters who

mothered her, changing her, feeding her

the Italian treats she loved to break down,

crumbling earth crusts into the silken oil

of remembered olive trees amid sliced

tongues of tomatoes and loud peppers.

 

“Aunt Ida” always, Edith winked coy smiles,

gave a girlish “yes” to whatever was asked,

efficient as ever only in the theatre of her

subway mind, where she wore a Red Cross

cape to tend the crowds of poor strangers,

crawling towards the infant she once was

without seeing the long distance behind.

 

A Polish Jew who fled as a boy to the wall

before settling in a New World and name,

“Yehuda Nir,” swelled by a stuck ego’s war

to save a self, he rose from a lost childhood

to heal fellow survivors, hating the tribe

that had hacked his father from his hand,

unable to forget or forgive or grow old.

 

Under eyelids blacker than any blackness

one can imagine or recall, it means raging

down the mind’s spider-stitched staircase

to a cellar floor where pleasure was simple

as verse, now a night terror, like a Stoic’s

scorned “death,” that can’t sleep or be.

___

Poet, critic, and literary biographer, Edward Butscher resides with his wife, Paula Trachtman, in Greenport, Long Island. His poetry and essays have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies since 1976. Collections of his poetry include Poems About SilenceAmagansett Cycle, and Child in the House. His biography Sylvia Path: Method and Madness, was the first of that poet, and Conrad Aiken: Poet of White Horse Vale won the Melville Kane Award from the Poetry Society of America.

Chaos

By Edward Butscher

I will it still in absentia

with the cowardice of a poet

caged by rag flesh and glass bone

when it scratches a frenzied alphabet

against the porch corner’s cell walls:

 

the final quivers and glazed stare

of a feathered and beaked creature

dumped into this twilight life

from a teacup of darkness

 

only to be slashed back home

without ever growing large

enough to mother another

 

or streak through sun blasts

to snatch a briefer butterfly

from its immense mission.

___

Poet, critic, and literary biographer, Edward Butscher resides with his wife, Paula Trachtman, in Greenport, Long Island. His poetry and essays have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies since 1976. Collections of his poetry include Poems About SilenceAmagansett Cycle, and Child in the House. His biography Sylvia Path: Method and Madness, was the first of that poet, and Conrad Aiken: Poet of White Horse Vale won the Melville Kane Award from the Poetry Society of America.

Caravaggio

By Edward Butscher

Circling tourists, mainly American

and white-haired, are unable to dilute

its spotlight flood, the blood-letting

of a prone John the Baptist occupying

an entire wall in St. John’s Cathedral,

 

his zealot’s head bound for severing

to feed a reckless, feckless beauty—

or to float (strings invisible as shark

atoms) down to that sunless sea

of another poet’s opium dream.

 

A docked white yacht bares masts

tall enough to recall the bristling

forest of Barbarosa’s armadas

when Suleyman the Magnificent

twice gnashed his teeth against

Valletta’s star-stoned bunkers,

awaits our return with champagne

cocktails and glazed tea cakes.

 

The caught faux knight fled Malta

to reclaim Rome’s papal pardon

for his original crime, parading

rough trade across a Biblical stage,

painting the forbidden hidden light,

but he was wounded in the attempt,

fittingly dying of a fever at age 37.

 

Dance with me is the nightly request

as a school of mainly older bodies

surges around a rainbow-lit lounge,

childishly defying pain-jolted bones

and the fecal blackness smeared on

cabin portholes with a blind brush.

___

Poet, critic, and literary biographer, Edward Butscher resides with his wife, Paula Trachtman, in Greenport, Long Island. His poetry and essays have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies since 1976. Collections of his poetry include Poems About SilenceAmagansett Cycle, and Child in the House. His biography Sylvia Path: Method and Madness, was the first of that poet, and Conrad Aiken: Poet of White Horse Vale won the Melville Kane Award from the Poetry Society of America.

Zero

By Edward Butscher

Moses’ eyes concave

into zealot blindness

that makes stone burn,

cold flesh grow green.

 

Serpent as a piece

of red bakery string

dropped on a bed,

 

blinking unblinking

at the sepia smiles

of alien relatives,

 

the old woman’s

cancer-sour tongue

paints her bedroom

the color of corn.

 

This is my crime.

Survival is hers.

 

A robin’s blank eye

mimics a sun nugget

set so still amid vague

fluff carnage of its

wingless remains:

 

the beauty of a thing

that once had breath,

being and beauty

fused into a tear

for cupped hands

to catch intact

 

buffed perfect

between artful lids.

___

Poet, critic, and literary biographer, Edward Butscher resides with his wife, Paula Trachtman, in Greenport, Long Island. His poetry and essays have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies since 1976. Collections of his poetry include Poems About SilenceAmagansett Cycle, and Child in the House. His biography Sylvia Path: Method and Madness, was the first of that poet, and Conrad Aiken: Poet of White Horse Vale won the Melville Kane Award from the Poetry Society of America.

Seasonal

By Edward Butscher

In the green egg

of a nursing oak

I sense the sinew urge

of a resurgent spring,

fingering its lizard skull

like a miniature mine

left behind

by the war

 

while remembering

that morning journey

into her wrecked mind

where demons wore white—

weaned from her bed

by love and a need

to be relieved

of her needs.

 

In the mouths of blossoms

I smell urine-bleached

petticoats, her flaccid

loins rain-plumped

worms underfoot.

 

Past silent houses

and green carpets

of this Flushing town

she never understood,

I plowed her

feather weight

wishing bell peppers

and tomato tongues

could sound our breaths.

 

Older than she,

a porch-proud friend

sat smug above

our slow passage,

 

defending her soil

with rag-flagged sticks

waving goodbye

waving goodbye

 like whips of gull wings

lacerating sun-lit air.

 

In restless fragments

of the sky’s broken

 

shell, in clumsy wing heaps

hacking at heaven’s bodice,

(I hear her climb)

grandmother vine.

“Mama mia!”

she sang aloud

like a lost child

 

or was it “Eddie”

she accused

as the axis of her wheelchair

groaned from the earth,

turning on hollow

catacomb bones?

 

The ghost of a barber

husband was a calla lily

haloing her maize-fine hair

when the glasshouse winked,

smiled, swallowed her whole.

 

We left her there

I leave her there

one maple-tense day

each returning spring

without even a donkey

to bray her home

 

or root up the stranger

who plants her there to die.

___

Poet, critic, and literary biographer, Edward Butscher resides with his wife, Paula Trachtman, in Greenport, Long Island. His poetry and essays have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies since 1976. Collections of his poetry include Poems About SilenceAmagansett Cycle, and Child in the House. His biography Sylvia Path: Method and Madness, was the first of that poet, and Conrad Aiken: Poet of White Horse Vale won the Melville Kane Award from the Poetry Society of America.

Punctuation

By Edward Butscher

When computers democratized

capitals and i-pods abridged words

themselves, deathless prose died

a billion deaths, tiny as pricks

in a condom—and no less perilous

 

Doomed to knowledge of erasure

at an early age by sudden shifts

of scenery and regal personae

(mother, father, nurturing aunts),

which meant predicating subjects

into objects at some felt remove

(brutal as brackets) from a child’s

steeple-high Emersonian eye,

 

the boy platformed castles at his

two Catholic elementary schools

from the sentences diagrammed

with an obsessive cardinal joy,

raising praised context and conduct

ramps under the weight of Latin’s

imported stage directions.

 

After college degrees and teaching

confirmed its value, a semi-colon’s

dragnet sweep had the raft appeal

of rescuing second and third ideas

from history’s enormous annals,

of elaborating revisions and subtle

eddies into carpets of The Master

and transfigured dream lovers.

 

Simon the Poet harpoons his colons

at the other side of the great divide

between conscious and unconscious

space, releasing fresh oxygen back

into the vacuum separating equals,

a mind expanding in a fecund, if

uneasy, way, unearthing old levels

of lore below remorseless stones.

 

But periods remain the most satisfying

to execute, reaffirming a sentence’s

existence at the acme of completeness

even as it concludes, like a Hemingway

story, on death’s implacable sword,

and it is difficult not to love them, no

matter what is obliterated, a sequence

of cats and dogs, whom I would have

saved if I could, like a jaded Casanova,

or the boyhood friends who never

said goodbye in words or a lost shout.

 

The end, in the end, is all there is.

___

Poet, critic, and literary biographer, Edward Butscher resides with his wife, Paula Trachtman, in Greenport, Long Island. His poetry and essays have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies since 1976. Collections of his poetry include Poems About SilenceAmagansett Cycle, and Child in the House. His biography Sylvia Path: Method and Madness, was the first of that poet, and Conrad Aiken: Poet of White Horse Vale won the Melville Kane Award from the Poetry Society of America.

Pigeons

By Edward Butscher

A dark, lean, hard man who spoke little,

forever hatted like a taxicab driver, his

childish smile rare as a peacock unfolding

below the flock of pigeons that exploded

from upturned palms like electrified stones,

his form distinct above us on a tenement roof:

a foreign saint set against rabid clouds.

 

He was our uncle, we were informed, but

he never looked at us, shy as a Dutch tulip,

and my father said in secret (man to man)

that he was a cousin from the family’s wild

branch where blood seethed with syphilis

bugs and was thin enough to candle eggs—

his wife a balloon shape sloped over a kitchen

window chair who could not bear children.

 

It was on the Lower East Side, just after the war,

when we first glimpsed him and his pigeon host

and I guessed from the way my father gauged

his rooster frame that he was unique, a specimen

divine in the madness propelling him into the sky

each morning, a laugh like startled mallards as he

unlatched the wire door and slowly pivoted on tar

in tune, in time, to circling shafts of darkness.

 

Near the end of their lives, my father and he sat

side by side in a urine-stained couch to monitor TV

soap operas. Teeth gone, nearly deaf, he did not stop

clucking as they sipped headless beers, reciting

newspaper horror tales by rote—fried infants, raped

nuns, tortured cats—asking if I had ever tasted

“a coon hair pie” or rode in a rumble seat.

 

At my father’s wake, he slumped alone in the back

and played with himself, cave grin bearing witness

to the betrayal of our shared laughter, and soon he

was also dead, his wife dancing in a nightgown

on the griddle of a snow-ribbed street as black

attendants handled him gently into an ambulance,

dawn horizon bleak as a tossed purse, pigeons

ascending like tattered angels from my awe.

___

Poet, critic, and literary biographer, Edward Butscher resides with his wife, Paula Trachtman, in Greenport, Long Island. His poetry and essays have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies since 1976. Collections of his poetry include Poems About SilenceAmagansett Cycle, and Child in the House. His biography Sylvia Path: Method and Madness, was the first of that poet, and Conrad Aiken: Poet of White Horse Vale won the Melville Kane Award from the Poetry Society of America.

Paranoia

By Edward Butscher

It is a quiet, noisy, injured thing

chained inside a forehead’s theatre,

streaming star performances of people

who can never be touched or trusted.

 

It is murder by degree and decree,

a Dutch or Russian uncle, predator wise,

Stalin’s problem-solving gulag slaughters,

as if death alone could annihilate death.

 

It is a furtive, infantile rage clenched

in a father’s quick fist like graveyard dirt

or hidden roll of coins, his wife listening

to a cold radio for plots against their son

___

Poet, critic, and literary biographer, Edward Butscher resides with his wife, Paula Trachtman, in Greenport, Long Island. His poetry and essays have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies since 1976. Collections of his poetry include Poems About SilenceAmagansett Cycle, and Child in the House. His biography Sylvia Path: Method and Madness, was the first of that poet, and Conrad Aiken: Poet of White Horse Vale won the Melville Kane Award from the Poetry Society of America.

Nursing Home

By Edward Butscher

Another hanging connection,

another gutteral whisper

near the lip of hysteria

above the tidal suction

of her unsure being

 

as I wake, again drenched,

from adolescence’s dream

of the island girl in jeans

a paradox of lean and lush

like that Ukrainian skater

 

simulating foreplay’s coy

pouts and poses and painted

fingers and mouths, licking

hair from cheeks and chest

swallowing strawberries

in a single giggling gulp.

 

“My apartment! My apartment!”

 

A naked radiator whistled

in the Smart Street apartment

where a mother’s waxing breast

launched another’s moon ride.

 

I see myself in the sly fright

of paranoid eyes so wide

they multiply childhood’s

appetite for immortality.

 

“They’re stealing our home!”

 

She laps at me like a cat

atop an unexpected fetus,

tonguing broken leg veins

 

to the scar near my heart

where three roads converge

when a ribcage collapses

into thrown pick-up sticks

 

the throat of silence loud

as a hidden universe’s

wheezing black holes.

___

Poet, critic, and literary biographer, Edward Butscher resides with his wife, Paula Trachtman, in Greenport, Long Island. His poetry and essays have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies since 1976. Collections of his poetry include Poems About SilenceAmagansett Cycle, and Child in the House. His biography Sylvia Path: Method and Madness, was the first of that poet, and Conrad Aiken: Poet of White Horse Vale won the Melville Kane Award from the Poetry Society of America.

Heart

By Edward Butscher

Nothing is an accident

in a poem or state of mind.

Nothing lacks design,

the craft of artisan hands.

 

This is the charm and chill

of a cosmos groaning on

an axis of stars without end.

 

After all, a sun’s pulsating

chaos is not chaos at all

but the cauldron of a skull

dreaming astronomy.

 

An Aztec priest perched

on a leafless limb

like a sailor’s parrot

and cawed what he never saw

about the human heart’s

flight from itself:

 

the thunder of a hare

caught in dawn’s gory jaws:

 

the first woman’s sacred stillness

haloing a Catholic schoolyard

as it moved earth to erupt

with the drum rhythms

of an anchor love

 

when light angels appeared

to spear her tense thighs

into dancing tassels.

 

He was a liar then and now,

but his truth remains true

 

his phoenix wings

his golden bough

his burning bush

 

kindling pyre for the hearth

where we sacrifice the Other

for a taste of wrought beauty

that will outlive all appetites.

 

___

Poet, critic, and literary biographer, Edward Butscher resides with his wife, Paula Trachtman, in Greenport, Long Island. His poetry and essays have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies since 1976. Collections of his poetry include Poems About SilenceAmagansett Cycle, and Child in the House. His biography Sylvia Path: Method and Madness, was the first of that poet, and Conrad Aiken: Poet of White Horse Vale won the Melville Kane Award from the Poetry Society of America.